For a guy who spent most of his years writing, performing, programming, and living in apartments with no yard, I ended up having what may have been the most chest-beating, outdoorsman-type weekend of my life.
On Saturday, I spent a chunk of the day attacking that huge wood pile with a chainsaw. (Yes, I’m the guy who used to be afraid of chainsaws.) It’s slow going, but the plan is to cut up a log or two each weekend until the job is done.
In the early evening, Chareva and I went out back and test-fired her new 20-gauge shotgun several times – which I guess makes it a chest-beating weekend for her too. I shot my 12-gauge as well to compare the recoil. I think Chareva could handle the 12-gauge in a pinch, but I wanted her to have something more manageable.
When I first fired my 12-gauge a few months ago, I made the mistake of holding it like I hold my rifle; i.e., just sort of resting against my shoulder. Ouch. I had a bruise for three days. I’ve since learned to hold a shotgun tight against my shoulder so the recoil produces a shove, not a punch. The plan is to take up turkey hunting later this year, since we get plenty of wild turkeys in these parts. I may go for a deer at some point as well.
On Sunday, I attacked the jungle around the property both with the chainsaw (for the really thick bushes) and with the blade attachment on the Weed-Whacker (thus giving myself another opportunity to lose an appendage). Yes, I’ve cleared the jungle before, but I came to a startling realization lesson this summer: jungles grow back. In fact, they’re relentless. With Jimmy Moore coming to town and a hundred or so rounds of disc golf on the schedule, the jungle had to go — again. Hunting for a bad shot in the overgrowth is a good way to pick up chiggers or ticks.
Speaking of insects that bite, I finally learned why they love me so darned much. And I mean it: I attract them like models attract professional athletes. Chareva and I will go to sleep, and I’ll wake up with a dozen spider bites, while she’ll have one or (more likely) none. Same thing with mosquitoes when we both work outside.
Chareva’s theory was that biting insects find me delicious. My theory was that they don’t bite her because she’s nice. (Naw, leave the nice lady alone, guys. Let’s go bite the sarcastic bastard next to her.) Turns out her theory was probably correct:
Roughly 20 percent of people are more frequent meal tickets for mosquitoes than the rest of the population, and Smithsonian Magazine set out to investigate: Why?
Beer drinkers beware. Mosquitoes love the brew.
Just a single 12-ounce bottle of beer can make you more attractive to the insects, one study found. But even though researchers had suspected this was because drinking increases the amount of ethanol excreted in sweat, or because it increases body temperature, neither of these factors were found to correlate with mosquito landings, making their affinity for drinkers something of a mystery.
No, this isn’t about me drinking beer. I rarely drink beer anymore. I drank way too much beer in my young and stupid days, but I doubt I’m still seeping the stuff from my pores. Let’s read on:
The pests also like Type O blood twice as much as Type A. And they’re attracted to high levels of carbon dioxide and can smell the gas from 164 feet away. That means those with larger frames and bigger bodies are more at risk for bites.
Bingo. I have type O blood. Chareva has type A blood. I also have a bigger body by about 70 pounds. Mosquitoes do find me more delicious. Based on my track record, so do spiders. And chiggers. And ticks.
The garden isn’t providing a whole lot of food yet, but we’ve had a bumper crop of Swiss chard. Man, that’s good stuff. Chareva chops it up and sautés it in olive oil and garlic, or with chopped bacon. We’ve also had some green beans and sugar-snap peas. Foods from a grocery store don’t come anywhere close for flavor.
I’ve strapped my trail camera to a tree behind the house a few times in hopes of figuring out what makes the dogs occasionally bark like crazy in the middle of the night. I guess it might be this:
For the past couple of weeks, however, the dogs have been focused on trying to find a way into the rest of the house so they can pay a visit (friendly or not … too soon to tell) to our newest addition:
The kitty’s name (after much debate and negotiation between the girls) is Rascal. I’m not a cat-lover and had no intention of ever getting one, but some idiot stranger forced me to capitulate.
A few weeks ago, Chareva saw someone in a pickup stop halfway down our long driveway, sit there for a minute, then drive away. She thought that was odd, of course. Then we noticed we had a kitten hanging around our house. Okay, now it made sense. Someone apparently bought into the “drop your unwanted pets at the nearest farm and all will be well” idea.
All wasn’t well. The girls were of course immediately smitten, but within a week the kitten became listless, stopped eating and drinking, and seemed on the verge of death. Our local vet took a look and said if we wanted to spend several hundred dollars on tests, he might be able to figure out what was wrong … but his guess was that the kitten was going to die anyway. It hadn’t been cared for, hadn’t had any shots, and was riddled with ticks when we found it.
So Chareva and I had to sit the girls down and explain that was it best to put the kitten to sleep. Chareva drove the grief-stricken girls back to the vet’s at their insistence so they could say goodbye to the kitten. Then she came home and dug a grave, in tears. She was never a cat person either, but after days of holding the kitten and trying to feed it with a syringe, she’d bonded with it.
The sort-of-happy ending is that the vet’s nurse decided to take the kitten home and try to save it, since she’d been wanting a cat anyway. At least we could tell the girls (after hours of weeping) that the kitten wasn’t going to be put down. But before the sort-of-happy ending, Chareva had promised the grieving girls that we’d get them another kitten.
That’s how Rascal ended up being their new pet. By the time I came home from work the next day, they’d already picked him up from a shelter.
So some idiot stranger traumatized my girls, left with me a vet bill, and pushed me into owning a cat – all because he thought it would be a good idea to dump his unwanted pet on our land. Thanks, moron.
Rascal is a mellow little dude and seems to like me. He demonstrates his affection by pouncing on my shoulder late at night when I’m watching TV alone in the dark and have forgotten we own a cat. Then he helpfully slurps up the drink that tumbles out of my hand when I jump halfway out of my chair with what’s left of my hair standing up. I guess he doesn’t want those chest-beating weekends to give me a big macho ego. Getting the poop scared out of you by a kitten certainly provides a dose of humility.
On another farm somewhere in Illinois, my future dinner is growing up nicely on a diet of grass, as Mother Nature intended. The Older Brother sent a picture:
Jimmy and Christine Moore will arrive on Thursday. I’ll keep up with comments, but may or may not write any posts during their visit.
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